One thing I love about my job is that it pushes me out of my comfort zone in small ways… if it were up to me, I’d leave Chinese food to the pros (and Vietnamese food, and Thai) – part of what makes it taste so good is the not knowing what exactly went into it, the experience of making ginger beef / lemon chicken / mu shu pork night after night in well-seasoned woks and skillets. Who am I to pull off a proper batch of lemon chicken? We talked about citrus on CBC this morning, and with Chinese New Year coming up on Friday, I figured I’d give it a go. And really, the ingredients that go into this are not at all exotic – you need not even venture down the aisle of the grocery store that has coconut milk and rice noodles and other no longer particularly extraordinary ingredients. It’s is really no more than chicken and soy sauce and lemonContinue reading

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Let me preface this by saying the above photo does not do this chicken justice. Also: I hope you don’t mind more photos of my PJ pants. ‘Tis the season for braising; short, grey and chilly days call for long, slow cooking. When so much time is spent puttering around at home, packing up decorations and weaning oneself off holiday chocolate, it’s the perfect time to slide a piece of meat into the oven and let it warm the house as it slowly cooks. Sure, you could put it into the slow cooker, but I love the dark stickiness you get from a pot, and the satisfaction of having it simmering in the oven while you pad around the house in your woolies. We made this on a day spent entirely in PJs. This chicken braised in milk with lemon, garlic, sage and cinnamon comes from Jamie Oliver – and if you look at his bird, it’s pretty gorgeous – dark and crisp and delicious-lookingContinue reading

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My friend and neighbour, Emily, has a single mint plant in front of her house that’s the size of a small shrubbery. She encourages me to grab handfuls of it if I’m ever walking by. Because she brought a few jars of beet preserves to me last week – pickled beets, beet relish and chutney – I pondered what I might make with mint that would go with the tangy beets, knowing she had the same plethora of mint and pickled beets at home too. And so I took a handful or two and whizzed it into a slurry with plain yogurt, the juice of a lemon (the zest would be great too), some ginger and spices; yogurt acts as a flavour carrier while tenderizing chicken – you can leave it in the fridge for a day to get to know each other, or freeze the lot – the marinade protects the chicken from freezer burn. Thread the chunks onto soaked bamboo skewers and theyContinue reading

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Butter chicken and naan are totally gaga for each other, don’t you think? It’s tough to have one without the other. And so I wrapped butter chicken in naan dough, then baked it into a sort of butter chicken calzone. With or without cheese, it’s one of our new favourite things to eat around here. I originally wrote this recipe for the April issue of Parents Canada – streamlining it for print with the use of bottled sauce. You could, of course, use any butter chicken recipe you like, or even use takeout. Once cold, it will easily spoon into the middle of a circle of dough without running amok; you can then top it with a wee mound of grated cheese and seal the pocket to bake into a gooey pocket – I want to give them a go on the grill, and see if the added char will make them even more reminiscent of the smokey flavour naan gets from a traditional tandooriContinue reading

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How pretty is this? It’s my niece’s birthday today. (Happy birthday Em! I luvs ya.) When she was off for spring break, she came over to help me cook and style food for a couple of days; we played Green Day and made Chicken Cacciatore. She wanted to help out, and so I printed off this recipe and set her to make it – all on her own. I tried to stay out of it and let her figure it out. I find it interesting to watch people – especially those who aren’t everyday cooks – navigate a recipe. She did a great job, and was a bit of a perfectionist, in fact, carefully placing single pieces of bacon in the hot pan, spacing them evenly, muttering under her breath when one piece folded over. She stood in wait over the pan, jumping at each spatter, turning each piece of bacon as it cooked. It was adorable. We’ve done a lot of baking together, andContinue reading

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Who else is prompted to clean their basement when freezing rain insists on falling on the second weekend in April? And who else, once downstairs rummaging through the growing pile of stuff that is the even scarier grown-up version of the monster in the basement, finds small appliances they didn’t even realize they had? I discovered that not only did we already own a humidifier – and I didn’t need to go drop $70 for a new one – we do, in fact, have a slow cooker smaller than the big oval 6 quart one I keep hauling out every time I want to cook something slowly. It’s like Christmas down there, I tell ya. (Likewise for the guys who pick up our recycling this week.)

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I’ll be honest – I never really fancied myself the Buffalo wing type. (Capitalized because they are named for the city, not the animal.) Buffalo wings are hot wings, and I’ve never much been into hot (sun or spice) – I can’t relate to those people who buy hot sauce by the jug and glug it on their toast. Further, it’s never been the sort of thing I aspired to make at home. Wings are pub food – something you order by the basket and eat in a loud booth with beer (cider for me) and plenty of people and napkins. I always went for the sticky, sugary ones, being a wuss and all, but I’ve recently come to love Buffalo wings on the milder side, and learned why – because that classic Buffalo wing sauce you get at the pub is Frank’s Red Hot Sauce cut with… butter. It’s kind of my job to keep tabs on what people are into eating, and withContinue reading

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Sometimes I procrastinate. Shocking, I know. I’m doing it now. I should be writing a story about French cooking, and preparing for a foodstyling gig tomorrow, and I have overflowing shoeboxes of papers to file beside be, and instead I’m flipping through old New York Times articles and calling it research. But it has paid off, I think: I came across this old (13 years!) Mark Bittman story about roasting an entire chicken in 30 minutes. Without use of an 800-degree pizza oven. And the practical side of my brain convinces me that I really should make note of this now, lest I forget, or lose track of what it was that grabbed my attention in the first place, and never get the life-changing opportunity to learn how to almost flash-roast a chicken. Besides, I always love new ways to use a cast iron skillet. In the fall of 1999, Mark Bittman tipped us off to his little secret: kick-start your chicken by roasting itContinue reading

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When I was pregnant, I didn’t have cravings – I had aversions. I envied those women who craved cheeseburgers and ice cream and got a free pass to eat them in stretchy pants at their leisure. For me, the smell – or even thought – of most food, and particularly meat, was nausea-inducing. I finally understood how those people who could go through a day and forget to eat felt. I didn’t want much of anything, except perhaps the occasional slurpee and sour things, like lemonade. A friend who had gone through the same sent a list of foods that weren’t as bad coming back up. Among the worst: roasted chicken and chicken soup. Totally not fair. One day while grocery shopping in Vancouver, a lady passed me with her cart, slumped over the bar, pulling apart and eating a deli chicken with her fingers. I had to run, not walk, to the loo.

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